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Countertop Materials

To be or not to be? Granite or marble? That is the question. Burning through every new homebuyer or remodeler’s dreams. The ultimate answer is: yes, please, some of both! But understanding which applications are best suited for which stone variety is why your here. We first need to understand a little more about the stones themselves.

Quartz

Quartzite

Quartzite is a metamorphic rock formed when quartz-rich sandstone or chert has been exposed to high temperatures and pressures. Such conditions fuse the quartz grains together forming a dense, hard, equigranular rock. The name quartzite implies not only a high degree of induration (hardness), but also a high quartz content. Quartzite generally comprises greater than 90% percent quartz, and some examples, containing up to 99% quartz, and are the largest and purest concentrations of silica in the Earth’s crust. Although a quartz-rich sandstone or marbles can look similar to quartzite, they are not the same. Quartzite also tends to have a sugary appearance and glassy lustre. The variety of colors displayed by quartzite are a consequence of minor amounts of impurities being incorporated with the quartz during metamorphism. Although quartzite can sometimes appear superficially similar to marble, a piece of quartzite will not be able to be scratched by a metal blade, can scratch glass and will not fizz on contact with dilute hydrochloric acid.

Engineered stone (Quartz)

Quartz countertops are man-made engineered stone countertops formed by combining 90% ground quartz (a natural hard mineral) with 8-10% resins, polymers, and pigments. This forms a very hard granite-like surface. The appearance depends on how the quartz is ground: coarsely ground quartz produces a flecked appearance, while finely ground quartz produces a smooth look.

Pros: Extremely hard and durable; Available with a glossy sheen or a honed finish; non-porous and stain-and-crack resistant; does not require sealing or resealing; wide range of colors; easy to clean with mild soap, water, and a soft cloth.

Cons: Expensive; not heat tolerant; seams are inevitable for large countertop designs.

Granite

Granite is an extremely common stone all over the word, and make up a substantial portion of the earth’s crust.

Granite is an igneous rock, and was formed deep under the earth’s crust as molten lava and rock cooled very slowly. During the cooling process, minerals like feldspar and quartz crystallized and bonded together.

Because of the way it was formed, granite is very strong, and resists water and food acids. It looks like a bunch of crystals packed together very tightly. Some granites have larger crystals and some have very small crystals, and some contain both.

It is found on all 7 continents and beneath the waves of the earth’s oceans. The presence of different minerals during its formation causes granite to take on an almost endless variety of colors, from white to black, red to blue, and every blend of color possible.

Granite is typically classified by price groups or levels, these levels are determined by the cost and availability or rarity of the stone, as well as the quality.

Marble

Marble is a metamorphic rock.

it began its journey as a coral reef beneath an ancient sea millions of years ago. The reef eventually became buried under earth and rock, and the calcium rich bones of the little creatures which lived among the reef and seas which eventually became calcium carbonate or limestone. Then, the limestone was buried even further beneath the earth’s surface, and, under tremendous heat and pressure, the calcium carbonate crystallized into marble.

Marble is also commonly found almost everywhere on earth. Because it is composed of calcium carbonate, it is easily soluble in food acids, and semi-soluble in water. Calcium carbonate is a soft material and can be easily scratched by metal tools like knives. The presence of other minerals in the calcium carbonate is what gives marble its rich color variations and veining. Marble comes in almost as many colors as granite, and comes in a much wider range of patterns.

In this case, marble is the superior choice due to its superb beauty. For flooring, it’s a toss-up. Heads or tails? Granite or marble?

Marble has a more random variety of color swirls and veining, often including crystal pockets. And while, compared to granite, it may not be as tough or resilient, it is still a very strong stone, and the fact that so many marble building from ancient Rome and Greece are still standing proves its durability. We can safely say that granite is still a superior choice over marble for kitchen countertops.

After 10 years of use, marble countertops tend to be scratched by knives, stained by food acids and dull from water and cleaning solutions, which wears away the polished surface. A deep cleaning and resurfacing can completely revitalize such weary countertops to their original glory. Granite countertops will still look practically brand new after 10 yrs of use, as long as they are maintained properly.

And even though in may not be as dramatic as marble, kitchen countertops in today’s era are, above all else utilitarian. Granite is just as dramatic and beautiful, and incredibly practical, which makes it the superior choice. Table tops on furniture pieces while also utilitarian, are also considered decorative. And the certainly receive less abuse and spills than kitchen countertops, especially if the table is outside the dining area.

Granite Vs. Marble

When we compare marble and granite, we find that granite is stronger than marble, does not lose its polish after long term exposure to water (like marble does), and does not easily stain in the presence of food acids like fruit juice, coffee and wine (like marble does). On the other hand, marble is more aesthetically dramatic and beautiful with subtle colors and veining. While granite comes in almost every color imaginable, it has a relatively uniform look across the slab. Marble will wear down more quickly than granite, but since constant contact with moisture and acids is not as common with flooring, marble is often chosen over granite because of its beauty and legacy. Marble graces the floors and stairs of virtually every palace in Europe. It’s heritage alone gives it the upper hand on the floor.

Likewise, marble rules the bath! marble vanities are expected in a beautiful bathroom. Marble is particularly attractive when wrapped around a Jacuzzi tub or garden tub, or on the walls of the shower. Marble vessel sinks and tops are becoming the ultimate symbol of style and refinement in the bathroom.

But granite still has its place in the bath as well. Honed and leathered or flamed granites are becoming more and more popular. So, when it comes time for you to ask yourself the ultimate question (granite…or marble?), you know what the proper answer is! Both, please! Plenty of granite in the kitchen, plenty of marble on the floors and in the bath. You’ll be adding unsurpassed beauty and value to your home.